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Sen. Kirk Calls On Congress To Extend Fighter Jet Production in St. Louis

Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois held a press conference Monday after touring the facility where Boeing builds the Navy's EA-18 G Growler.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) says he will work to extend production of EA-18 G Growlers at Boeing’s defense facility in north St. Louis County.

Kirk, who toured the assembly line and met with company leaders Monday, told reporters he will try to convince Congress to approve and appropriate funds for 22 more of the radar-jamming aircraft.

Building the fighters, he said, supports about 5,000 jobs in the St. Louis area and is critical to the Navy for future conflicts.

“In my experience in Kosovo the jamming aircraft were absolutely essential,” he said. Kirk, who flew in missions aboard the Growler’s predecessor over former Yugoslavia, says recent unrest in countries like Ukraine and Syria, underscore the need for the U.S. to sustain advanced electronic warfare capabilities.

“If we ever have to look at a scenario like flying against the Syrians, you would want to make sure the Syrians were completely blind,” he said referring to their military’s ability to track aircraft and weaponry with radar.

Earlier this month the Chief of Naval Operations asked Congress to include the additional fighters in next year’s budget.

Without additional orders, Boeing will stop production of the Growlers in St. Louis at the end of 2016.